The Four Temperaments and Human Formation


In many Catholic circles, I have found it popular to speak in terms of the classic four greek temperaments, or humors. In taking a few tests, and talking with a few friends, I think I have found myself to be Melancholic / Choleric. While there are many good things about this, the following description of the possible downsides of this temperament ring a bit too true:

“But your weaknesses include a tendency to excessive self-criticism and criticism of others, being dismissive or overly judgmental, exhibiting a tendency to self-absorption, and possessing an untrustful and controlling nature. You tend to be inflexible, can bear grudges for a long time and may be prone to discouragement. A melancholic-choleric who is not attentive to his spiritual life, and does not keep his eye assiduously on the truly important things of life can become a cross to those around him, through his nit-picking, perfectionism, disdain, bitterness, resentfulness, spitefulness when crossed, and even haughtiness.”

Does anyone here share some of these issues? Also, does anyone have any practical advice for trying to avoid these problems?

Ave Maria

I’m not sure how helpful this is, but I have a similar temperament and the faults have gotten a lot of work thanks to my children. :o

I’d say find a way to be of service to others, to really practice “dying to self.” I learned a lot when I was a teacher and worked with students from walks of life that were very different from mine.

Sophia Institute Press publishes a book “The Temperament God Gave You.” That might be worth the read.

The four temperaments is new age silliness on par with horoscopes. It is not science, nor is it Catholic. Tho I’m sure there are Catholics who are die-hard believers in it. :frowning:

I think the summation of the above descriptions is that a person of this nature thinks they are right whenever they have something to say about someone or something else. The simplest practical advice is just to keep one’s mouth shut. Or to express one’s thoughts, opinions or direction with sincere humility and not as if they are absolute truth.

I agree with you. :wink:

Psychologists generally make great observations, but their theories are commonly a bunch of ****. I would not recommend viewing oneself from the perspective of an ancient theory of personality. Moreover, the correlation between “personality” and behavior is small, seldom accounting for much of the variance.

I don’t think it’s particularly new-agey to note that certain personality characteristics are likely to go together and have their pros and cons. Ascribing them to the balance of bodily fluids is based on flawed medical understanding, but to my knowledge it’s only the names that are in use today to describe broad similarities. :shrug: I don’t know anyone who seriously believes they have an excess of bile that affects how they treat others.

Anyway, the OP read a list of faults and found many of them resonated with him and asked for help about how to deal with them. Regardless of where he got the specific list, can anyone help him? I suggested service.

Confirmation bias, Barnum effect, Forer effect: “…the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. This effect can provide a partial explanation for the widespread acceptance of some beliefs and practices, such as astrology, fortune telling, graphology, aura reading and some types of personality tests.” Wikipedia - Barnum effect.

So because lots of people can suffer from self-absorption and being excessively critical or judgemental, the OP doesn’t need to work on those things?

I don’t disagree with you that confirmation bias is a thing. I just think it’s not particularly relevant. If a person notices a sinful tendency, he or she should work on it. (Isn’t that what we do with an examination of conscience?)

I’m not a big believer in temperaments, by the way. I’ve read about them a little and do believe what I said before: some traits go together. If you grouped a list together for people who were too picky or fussy or impatient, I’d fit that one way better than one that focused on sloth and laziness and forgetfulness. That’s not new age, that’s common sense and knowing yourself.

I didn’t say that. I was responding to only one small part of the post - see the part I quoted.

Very well.

As I noted later in my post, I know what confirmation bias is, and don’t think it’s particularly relevant to the OP. Despite the thread title, his main question seems to be, “How do I work on these problems?” At least the way I read it, it’s not useful to avoid/ignore that question to focus on where he got the list. As a secondary concern, sure. It’s not smart to try to put yourself too neatly into any box.

But for now, what to do with those faults?

I probably should stop bothering to post here at all. This isn’t the first time I’ve been chewed out for being wrong. Sorry I can’t be right all the time.

I apologize, I did not mean to chew you out. If I’d been writing on my computer instead of my phone, I could have used emoticons to make my tone more clear.

After your initial post, several more jumped on to disparage the idea of temperaments. That’s a fine topic for a thread, but it didn’t seem to answer the OP’s question.

(And maybe my personality type finds it very hard to let that sort of thing go. ;))

I would just like to say that if you are going with this vein of thought, I beieve you would benefit more from intravert/extravert tendencies. And not every one is either one or the other but a combination. Still a person usually leans more to one than another.

The saint patron of youth, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, tended to be more intravert, and he was told by God in his prayers that he should have more conversation with others and try to mix more. This saint took that to heart even tho he did not feel very comfortable doing it, and did it out of love for Jesus in others.

I would think the same thing might happen to an extravert, that he should be more into his solitary prayer life and praying for others. This isn’t easy for an extravert who gets his energy and satisfaction from being with others. Yet we cannot allow our dispositions, which are easier to follow, to lead us. Jesus taught us about solitary prayer himself.

There are many holes in a person, and that is what we must work on, not really our strong points. But we need to know our strong points too so we can make best use of these to help ourselves and others. But we really are fillers of holes, where God isn’t. And as a matter of fact, the saints tended to make their weak points their strong points after a time.


I would recommend two prayers, and that you say them consistently throughout the day.

*Jesus, I love you: posses me.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, burning with love for me, inflame my heart with love for Thee.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit